A new round of improvements is on the way to the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds, many of which county officials hope will lead to more events and revenue from the facility.

Nueces County Commissioners last week approved nearly $5 million worth of improvements for the fairgrounds, including an expansion to the existing Equestrian Center Arena, additional spaces for recreational vehicles and parking. The work is part of a $6.9 million improvements package approved by the court last year after the demise of the proposed Heritage Center arena.

The first round of work, which included the installation of air conditioning in Exhibit Hall A, was completed earlier this year. Other additions to the fairgrounds as a result of that initial phase included new sidewalks, parking and lighting, as well as various upgrades to the facility's drainage system.

Phase Two of the project had five bids, with the contractors asked to quote prices on a base bid package and nine alternates. The base bid package included the expansion of the existing Equestrian Center Arena, as well as the construction of 90 RV spots, locker rooms, a storage building and additional event parking.

The low bidder for the base bid was SafeNet Services, with a proposal of $3.6 million, about $300,000 less than the runner-up bid of $3.9 million from Teal Constuction.

The court voted to award the project to SafeNet, along with six of the nine alternate projects. Those included additional expansion to the Equestrian Center, as well as an announcer's booth and concession area for the facility.

Also, the court approved the addition of 64 RV spots for the fairgrounds, bringing the total number up to 154 spots that will be available for use once completed, and a new traffic gate and emergency power generator for the Central Pavilion Arena.

Officials with Global Spectrum, the firm managing the fairgrounds, has said the Equestrian Center Arena needs the work, since the expansion project will up the capacity of the arena from 1,000 to 2,200, depending on the configuration.

Further improvements to the Equestrian Center will include making the facility more usable for team roping and rodeo events.

The total cost of the additional items approved by commissioners last week was about $1.1 million, bringing the overall project cost to $4.7 million.

The county had about $4.9 million in available funds for the work, which is being paid for by money reallocated from 2007 Series Certificates of Obligation.

Nearly $20 million of those funds had been budgeted for the proposed Heritage Center Arena until commissioners voted it down last year.

That money was then reallocated to various other county projects, including renovations at the Nueces County Jail and fairgrounds, as well as work on County Road 52 in Calallen.

County officials hope all of the upgrades will help the fairgrounds to attract larger multi-day events similar to the Corpus Christi Peddler Show and Saxet Gun Show that take place at the facility now.

The Peddler Show's most recent event in February had attendance estimated at more than 15,000, according to fairgrounds general manager Jason Green.

Improvements Package No. 2

Base bid (Event parking, 10,000-square-foot expansion to the Equestrian Center arena, storage building, locker rooms, additional library parking, recreational vehicle hookups, perimeter fencing, and other improvements): $3,585,416

Alternates approved

No. 1

Additional 10,000-square-foot Equestrian Center expansion: $228,266

No. 3

Announcer's boot at Equestrian Center: $28,287

No. 5

Serving window at Equestrian Center: $4,704

No. 6

Sixty-four additional RV spots: $760,820

No. 8

New traffic gate: $4,342

No. 9

Emergency power generator for the Central Pavilion Arena: $41,581

Total cost of alternates approved: $1,068,000

Total cost of overall project: $4,653,416

Source: Naismith Engineering